A Cruise on the Other Side

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With all the hoopla famed track and field Olympian Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner is garnering these days for her coming out, I decided that I, too, needed some attention. And what better way to grab the homage of your peers than to do something so outlandish you leave them with their mouths hanging open and eyes popping. So outside my comfort zone that it would expose me to new and challenging roles.  

I chose an experienced neighbor to accompany me through this process. Chris (not a Kardashian) told me, “Once I made my up my own mind to give this stuff a try I never looked back! You should step out, and do it; I will be there for you!”

So, I did it: I took a job delivering a 1985, 41-foot Bristol center-cockpit sloop-rigged sailboat from Brunswick, Georgia, to Annapolis, Maryland, back in April. Sailboats have always been an intriguing element of boating for me and I’ve never really shied away from them. But I am an opportunist and for 40 years I’ve had opportunities with powerboats that simply never came up with sailboats. So I’ve always chosen the path of least resistance. 

Oh, upon my introduction to the trawler segment of the industry in 1997, after 22 years around sportfishing boats, you might say I was underwhelmed by the speeds. However, my experiences provided a grand lesson and taught me that enjoyment can be found by not traveling through every outing on the water—or even life—with your hair on fire!

We left Brunswick, Georgia on a Sunday morning. The boat was equipped with Hood Systems in-mast roller furling for the main and a roller-furling jib. Unfortunately the mainsail had been stretched out and could not be deployed easily so I made the decision to motorsail with the jib and the auxiliary Westerbeke diesel. There it is, diesel! I understand that one!

We departed the Brunswick River and headed for the Atlantic Ocean for a straight-line, motorsail run into Cape Fear. With the jib assist and the lazy purr of the Westerbeke at 2200 rpm, we were sipping less than a gallon of diesel an hour and averaging about 6.5 knots. Forty-one hours later we found ourselves entering Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 1 am, in the midst of a very dark night, with no working radar. 

Gusts of 25 to 30 knots and plenty of traffic challenged our entrance into Cape Fear River, where an outgoing tidal current knocked our speed down to 3.5 knots and the Westerbeke struggled a bit to perform at 2700 rpm, which tacked on another half-knot! Our destination was Provision Company in Southport, North Carolina, approximately 7 miles from the Cape Fear sea buoy. By 3 am, we were secured to the Provision Company dock and a first, well-deserved cold beer was enjoyed.

Annapolis was still a long way away and with the owner, Jan, onboard for her final voyage, we decided to slow things down a bit: No, seriously! The deadline of five days was overruled for the sake of enjoying the solitude of anchoring in downtown Norfolk; the delights of a prime-rib dinner at the Coinjock Marina Restaurant; anchoring in the quaintness of Slade Creek on the Pungo River; and the beautiful sunset and sunrise on the hook in Cockrell Creek off the Wicomico River.

Yep, I must say, my first long-distance delivery of a sailboat was quite enjoyable. Indeed, with 25-knot winds on the beam in the Alligator River, I was able to turn off the Westerbeke and maintain a 6-knot cruise with just the jib. The sound was nice! This will not be my last stick-and-wind delivery. 

But don’t think for a minute I have crossed over and am contemplating a total transformation. I’m still the kind of man who likes the smell of diesel in the morning, after all.

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